Why ALA is Going to be Awesome

My mother is a crazy, enthusiastic children’s librarian and I am her crazy, librarian-wannabe daughter which means that ALA is like Disney World for the two of us. I’m lucky that she’s my mom because otherwise I might not even know what ALA stands for.

But she is, and I do, and now we’re getting ready for our second trip to the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. As a teenager and not technically a librarian yet (even though I like to pretend that I already am) ALA is all about fun for me. Of course, I’m such a librarian nerd that even sessions about RefWorks are pretty thrilling but the true magic happens in the Exhibits Hall.

So, with excitement and antici…pation running through my book nerdy veins, I thought that I would write a list of the top ten things I hope I can tell you about in my post-conference post:

  1. Meeting Lauren Oliver and telling her that Before I Fall was one of the most beautiful novels that I have ever read. When you start a novel wanting to punch the main character in the face and end a novel crying because you know she has to die, you know you’ve just experienced something that doesn’t happen very often.
  2. Congratulating Libba Bray on her Printz Award and tell her that I TOTALLY saw it coming, because honestly, how could I not? I think she might also like to know that I am now the proud owner of a growing lawn gnome collection, all thanks to her.
  3. Participating in Libraries Build Communities again.
  4. Attending the YA Author Coffee Klatch and trying to contain my giddiness, especially if John Green is anywhere in the vicinity.
  5. Waiting just outside the Exhibits Hall just before they open and making a mad dash for all of the major publishers before the really good ARCs are gone.
  6. Talking about books with the Best Fiction for Young Adults panel (including my fabulous VOYA partner, Alissa Lauzon)
  7. Planning to fan girl every YA author I can find but ending up just staring at them in awe while my mother tells them how much I talk about their books.
  8. Recreating another serendipitous moment where I turn the corner and there is STEPHEN CHBOSKY signing The Perks of Being a Wallflower .
  9. Wandering through the Exhibits Hall pulling the “I am an eager teen reader. Please give me books” card.
  10. Being around a bunch of librarians who are as excited about books as I am.

I have no doubt that no matter how many of these things I actually get to do, I will still manage to have a great time, learn a lot, and get a ton of awesome ARCs. See you there!

Why the Weird Books Matter

I like weird books.

Books like Punkzilla by Adam Rapp,
The White Darkness by Geraldine Mccaughrean, and
Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

These books have something more than their weirdness in common. They’ve all been recognized by the Printz Committee in some way.

I think this is because the committee members know something that everyone needs to know: weird books are good.

Punkzilla is a stream-of-consciousness narrative about a boy who travels across the country to be with his dying brother. It’s full of weird characters and scenes that leave your brain feeling muddy and full of fuzz. But it’s also a book about humanity and connection. Zilla says things that make you want to cry they’re so beautiful because everything else is so confusing that only the really true things make sense.

The White Darkness is about a girl following her (possibly insane) uncle to Antarctica on a mission to find a world that may or may not exist. It’s also about that same girl finding her own voice and her own sight, something that she was unable to do in her everyday life. It took a journey into nothingness, a place where her mind was stretched to the limits, for her to discover herself. And the reader gets to go there with her.

Going Bovine, the winner of the most recent Printz Award, is about a kid named Cameron who gets Mad Cow Disease and sets off on a cross country rode trip to save the world accompanied by a dwarf, a lawn gnome who may or may not be a Norse god, and a punk rock guardian angel addicted to sugar. But it’s also about a new interpretation of what reality is, and what it means to each of us individually. The most commonly accepted reality is not the only one that exists, nor is it the most important. Cameron’s hallucinations were as real to him as any of his other experiences were. Going Bovine takes you inside the mind of a sick kid, and when you come out the other side it leaves you thinking that maybe it’s okay that none of it was “real” because it was real for Cameron, and sometimes that’s enough.

The weird books can take you places that you’ve never been before, and sometimes they take you places that you never really wanted to go. But by the time the journey is over, they leave you with something new and something important. The best part is that you might not even know what it is right away. You might have to sit with your own thoughts for a while, which is one of the best things a book can do.

While I think there is a place for fluffy romance and adventure stories in every reader’s life, the weird books need to be there too because they dare you to make sense of the ludicrous and then make it impossible to leave empty-handed.

I love the Printz Awards for seeing what I see in weird books and I love them even more for pointing those books out to the people who can do the most with them-the librarians. Librarians are in the business of opening minds and I think the weird books are a vital tool of the trade. I’m so excited to know that at least the librarians are drawing people’s attention to more than just Twilight and Gossip Girl. I guess I wrote this blog post to tell them that I really appreciate what they’re doing and that I hope they aren’t planning on stopping anytime soon.

So librarians, thanks for the weird ones. I’m not sure I would have found them without you.